COLUMBIA, S.C. – As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase at record levels in South Carolina, public health officials today announced the state will change its efforts from containment to community mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus. South Carolinians are being called on to help by continuing to take actions we know work – wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities at staggering rates, we are calling on South Carolinians to take immediate actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, Interim Public Health Director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). “Until the COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available and enough people are vaccinated, we must all act now or continue to face unprecedented numbers of cases that are overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare systems, as well as taking the lives of those we love. To do that, every one of us must recommit to the fight. We are all on the frontlines. If we don’t act now, we could face many dark months ahead.”
During containment, the effort is made to control the spread of disease by investigating each case and all who come into contact with them. The move from disease containment to a disease mitigation phase occurs when cases of disease are widespread and difficult to investigate one by one. Information on mitigation strategies is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
More South Carolinians Getting Sick from COVID-19
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today confirmed 4,809 new confirmed cases and 136 new probable cases of COVID-19, 18 additional confirmed deaths and 5 new probable deaths. These increases come as South Carolina faces new records for the highest number of new total cases and highest positivity rate – reaching 5,077 new cases Wednesday, Jan. 6 and a positive rate of 34.2% Tuesday, Jan. 5.
During the first two weeks of 2021 alone, 45,210 South Carolinians were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in South Carolina to 337,845, probable cases to 33,335, confirmed deaths to 5,420, and 514 probable deaths.
This is occurring as South Carolina, like other states across the nation, continues to also face an unprecedented increase in patient hospitalizations, causing a decrease in the availability of beds in our Emergency Departments, hospitals, intensive care units (ICU) and supply of ventilators.
Hospitals Bed and Ventilator Use Up
As of this morning, acute care hospitals in South Carolina are nearing capacity and Emergency Departments are overwhelmed. Of the 11,329 inpatient beds currently being used for patient care, 2,427 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19. In addition, of the 1,754 ICU beds currently being used for patient care, 465 are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile of the 1,948available ventilators, 744 are in use and 290 of those are COVID-19 patients. Many hospitals in the state are now cancelling elective services to deal with the overwhelming increase in the number of patients.
South Carolinians Encouraged to Know Their Status; Get Tested Regularly
DHEC strongly encourages South Carolinians to get tested regularly in order to know their status for COVID-19 and take action. As part of its mitigation strategy, DHEC continues to work with community partners across the state to increase access to COVID-19 testing. To date, South Carolina has conducted more than 4.16 million COVID-19 tests, which includes results from over 2,074,355 distinct people (40% of the state’s population). In addition, more than 300 testing events are open today across the state.
However, the state’s large increases in the number of COVID-19 cases requires public health officials to focus efforts on maximizing the effectiveness of case and contact investigation.
State Takes Mitigation Measures to Put Case and Contact Investigations to Best Use
Mitigation measures seek to put case and contact investigations to their best use possible to help public health officials focus on how best to prevent further spread of disease.
During the mitigation phase, efforts of contact investigation change from attempting to find the close contacts of each individual case to prioritizing case investigations of those who have tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 6 days.
Beginning immediately, contact investigators will focus contact tracing efforts on:
- household contacts exposed in the past 6 days, and
- people living, working, or visiting shared living facilities, high-density workplaces or other settings (or events) where a lot of spread is possible.
South Carolinians should not expect individual notification that they were exposed to a case.
How Can You Help?
Everyone must play a role in preventing spread during the mitigation phase. Public health officials stress the importance of wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, staying home and away from other people when sick, and washing our hands often regardless of if cases have been reported in your immediate community.
“Our chance of getting the best outcome hinges on us all doing our part,” Dr. Traxler said. “We need South Carolinians to continue to stand together to fight this disease by taking small steps that make a big difference, including wearing your mask, getting tested and staying home when you’re sick, avoiding large gatherings, practicing physical distancing, and when it’s your turn, getting vaccinated.”
People with signs of illness must stay at home and avoid public gatherings.
For the latest information about COVID-19, visit scdhec.gov/covid19.